Light in my throat:
Iris Colomb responds to Benjamin Sebastian’s‘Holding The Shadow While Calling Back The Light’
‘Holding The Shadow While Calling Back The Light’
The stage is a steel drain cover. The performer's materials surround it, waiting to beactivated: on the left, a tin bucket, on the right, a large brass bell. Between them, a whitemound of coconut oil, the size of three dozen handfuls. A friend guards it attentively. As theperformance draws closer, clusters of audience members gradually form. Crouching,standing, leaning. Expecting. Voices rustle against the distended throb of a lingering drone.
How’s it all going?
How long has it been?
Will it be cold, ever, again?
Sebastian appears in a black t-shirt dress. They stand, fist knocking on their chest, asthough it should open. They walk off, and the room stays still, awaiting their return. Whenthey reappear, a narrow cone of light descends, circling their materials. Their space issurrounded, held. As they start to sing, fist striking their chest once again, their voicepulsates, resonating through the room in rhythmical waves.
They kneel, pick up the bell on their left and, gaze steady with intention, fling their arm backand forth dynamically. Sound follows movement as weight oscillates. A rush of chimes hurtleout of their fist with each persistent gesture. In a restless flurry of irregular patterns, theturbulent vigour of their energy rings through the room. Sonic permutations tumble across it,unleashing a cumulative flow of iterations.
Once the bell is returned to its original position, Sebastian steps out of the lit perimeter. Witha rippling crackle, they slowly unfold a bondage hood of reflective fragments and slip it on.Their kaleidoscopic head now projects a reflective constellation, which pulses through theroom, following the rhythmical cadence of their fist and chest, they sing of severed ties andlost voices, a queer tale of rupture, dysphoria and resilience. Their face of shards mirrors themultifaceted nature of the gender identity their lyrics depict; a powerful image which, to mymind, vividly evokes the necessity to shatter the rigid surface of binary norms.
“I’m more than a body/ not just a body”
As this phrase resonates, Sebastian removes their bondage hood, kneels back into the light,and swiftly slips off their shirt dress, revealing a chrome cock cage.
Bucket set alight.
Flames unleash a fragrant odour of sage, which promptly crackles, sputters and swells intothe room. Sebastian carefully removes each part of their cock cage before reaching for thewhite mound and begins to spread its viscous substance across their body. As they do so,their resonant voice fills the room once more, flowing through melodic variations of a singlephrase:
“I called out / and all that I heard / was the echo / of a star”
Notes are held, extended, and amplified. Sebastian’s voice resonates as the moundprogressively shrinks. They meticulously rub the oily substance across each part of theirbody, all while exploring the sonic potential of their phrase. With each melodic iteration, newaspects of their lyrics come to light. The persistent call is probing, is resolute, is insistent, isyearning, is firm, is compelling, is bold, is bright. The star’s delayed response is faint, ispiercing, is timely, is steady, is joyful, is soothing, is radiant.
The mound eventually melts to reveal a core of silver biodegradable glitter, with whichSebastian proceeds to cover themself. Streams of light, caught and smoothed, drip fromtheir body in delicate flows. As their skin starts to shimmer and glow, their movements takeon a new reflective quality, each gesture flashing back at us in a swarm of innumerableflecks. Once the coat of glitter is complete, Sebastian picks up their bell once more, and asits beaming patterns begin to chime, they are met with a new repeated sliver of song:
“I call you home / I call all of you home”
As the bell sways, fuelled by Sebastian’s vibrant energy, I imagine clouds of glitter spreadingthrough its brass lips, I imagine them floating and stretching through the room, reachingeach one of us, leaving a multitude of glimmering marks. Long after the fire goes out, longafter Sebastian exits, with a slam of the door like a spell undone, their lyrics continue toresonate over the clatter of voices and returning drone. The bright smell of sage smokelingers and I am convinced that there is glitter in my glass, that there is light in my throat, thathope is fluid and contagious.
Holding the Shadow While Calling Back the Light by Benjamin Sebastian, as part of the Pretty Doomed opening performances
Still image from video documentation selected by Iris Colomb as compliment to responsive text, documentation courtesy of Marco Berardi & Baiba Sprance - 2023.
-> Read more about the complete FACET programme HERE